Hetty Dickson has every reason to be grateful that he lives in the Newmarket area. When he was hit by a car, and received severe head injuries, he was rushed to the Animal Health Trust where a team of specialist vets were on hand to deal with the emergency.
When Hetty, an 18-month-old cat arrived at the Trust, he was severely traumatised and in shock. He needed immediate treatment including pain management, fluid therapy and oxygen support. The next step was to use radiography to assess whether there was damage to the lungs or other internal organs. However the injuries were confined to the head.
As soon as appropriate oxygenation and ventilation were given, and he was stabilised, he was assessed thoroughly for traumatic injuries. Radiographs of the chest and abdomen did not reveal any evidence of skeletal fractures or soft tissue trauma. However, neurological examination revealed a depressed mental status and inability to generate voluntary movement in all four limbs. Hetty had decreased facial sensation and his right eye was partially prolapsed.
Hetty remained in the Trust’s Intensive Care Unit overnight, where he was looked after by the highly qualified staff. The following day, he was given a general anaesthetic in order to be able to obtain an MRI scan. Anaesthetising a cat in such a poor condition carries a high risk but, thankfully, the Trust has a specialist team of anaesthetists, with a great deal of experience in dealing with high risk cases.
The MRI scan revealed severe widespread brain injuries, and a fractured jaw. At that stage, the future wasn’t looking at all bright for Hetty but owner Tanya Dickson didn’t want to give up on him. “He’s a very special cat” she said “and I wanted to give him every chance. I knew that, if anyone could save his life, it would be the vets at the Animal Health Trust”.
The next stage for Hetty was surgery and the surgical team repaired his jaw. A tube was then placed in his oesophagus (gullet) to allow nutrition to be administered.
Because of his inability to produce tears, his eyes became very dry and ulcerated. This was managed with artificial tears and antibiotic drops, which were given up to 10 times daily whilst he was in hospital. His eyelids were also partially sutured together to protect his eyes until nerve function returned.
Because Hetty’s state of health was so precarious, he remained under the care of the Trust staff, during which time he responded remarkably well to treatment and gradually improved. His mobility increased beyond expectations but he remained unable to eat by himself and was still being fed by tube. Tanya knew that she wouldn’t be able to bring him home without this vital step.
However, much to the delight of Tanya and the entire veterinary team at the Trust, he started to eat before discharged. Finally, the wire was removed from his jaw on 10th April, about 6 weeks after the accident. His recovery since then has been slow but steady and he has just started to venture out to explore the garden once again. “I just can’t believe he’s still with us” said a delighted Tanya. “His injuries were so severe that I really thought we would lose him. I am just so very thankful that the Animal Health Trust was close by and that their expertise got him through.”
“And in case Hetty seems a slightly strange name for a male cat, it’s because when we first had him as a kitten we were told he was a female – and the name had stuck by the time we realised he wasn’t!!”)